Words from the ghost

My role at Goldschmidt 2015 was mostly photography. With a side portion of blogging thrown in, like a salad relish afterthought. There was also the poster of course, presenting my PhD hydrothermal experiment work. Poster sessions make me nervous. In fact, most social events make me nervous. I’m a nervous kind of creature. A flavour of trepidation existed, therefore, at the looming schedule of banquets, medal award and VIP dinners that awaited me over the conference.


I like the role of photographer. The camera and tripod justify one’s entry into quite private exchanges and scenes; yet also provide a deflective barrier against direct social engagement. It allows one to be a fly, a rat, a ghost, a nobody. A good photographer has the paradox to be able to capture the vibrant heart and essence of an event, whilst personally lacking existence. Such duality appeals to me.


All my previous work had been outdoors. I photographed extreme climbing in the European Alps, High Himalaya and Scottish highlands, and won a photography award for documenting the terrible suffering and death that are the Delhi slums (www.adrienne.moonfruit.com). I was worried that my lack of experience of indoor photography would lead to a disastrous week full of over exposed, blurry images and disappointed organisers. There is always the issue when people look at one’s previous work that they expect that standard of photography at all times, and not realising that a portfolio of 20 good shots may have taken months to garner together.


Most of my fears were unfounded, however. The organising team were both incredibly efficient, and genuinely friendly and kind. After the first day, navigating the conference centre labyrinth was no problem. I quickly learnt the tripod was essential to have any hope of a stable shot devoid of blur. Even then, one shot in a hundred was working successfully, due to the low light conditions. I have always hated using flash photography, as it makes the photographer an invasive element, instead of a fly on the wall. But the venue lighting simply insisted on the flash. I hope it didn’t disturb the speakers too much! Having the camera gave me the perfect excuse to go and talk to prominent figures in the community I would never of otherwise had the courage to approach, and the requirement to gain a photograph allowed me a way through the often seemingly impenetrable ‘high level’ entourage familiarly encountered by most students. The highlight of my week was meeting the lovely Dr Allan Treiman, a hero of mine, possibly the foremost authority on Martian meteorites and giant in the community.

Memories of this week include exploring the stunning balconies and frescos of Municipality House, lunching in the VIP meeting of the Corinthia hotel, meeting each of the plenary and medallists, and having my photograph portrait of Peter Sale being published in the German Newspaper Deutsche Welle (http://www.dw.com/en/the-future-is-grim-for-coral-reefs/a-18656602). Meeting and chatting with figures such as Andrew Revkin and Tom Parkhill have inspired me immensely to pursue a career with more involved science journalism, rather than pure research. Writing this in Prague airport just before departing back home to Scotland I realise it has been a turning point of a week, both in how I perceive science and my place within it. I thank the Goldschmidt organisers immensely for allowing me the opportunity to be the photographer, I am deeply grateful.